UNICEF supports ethnically integrated education through extra-curricular programmes in new youth centres
Kumanovo, 23 June 2010: Mr. Sheldon Yett, Representative, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Mr. Zoran Damjanovski, Mayor of Kumanovo Municipality officially opened the Multi-Kulti Youth Centre in Kumanovo. The youth centre is the first of three centres that will be opened in ethnically mixed communities in the country. Through youth programmes and extra-curricular activities, the Multi-Kulti Youth Centre will offer young people from ethnically mixed communities additional opportunities to socialize and to get to know peers from outside their own ethnic groups.
“Unfortunately, separation in schools based on the language of instruction has resulted in insufficient opportunities for young people from different backgrounds to meet and work together. This in turn has contributed to an ‘Us vs. Them’ attitude among some students and has encouraged ethnic prejudices to linger on and fester,” said Mr. Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative. “Social connections are an important ingredient for building trust and respect,” Yett said.
According to a recent UNICEF Study on Multiculturalism and Inter-Ethnic Relations in Education, the number of multilingual primary schools has decreased over the last ten years from 72 to 63. Many schools throughout the country are divided along ethnic and language lines This trend has contributed to some students, stereotyping and having prejudicial attitudes against those outside their own ethnic communities.
In response UNICEF is working with the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and in partnership with the Secretariat of the Ohrid Framework Agreement to promote tolerance and respect for ethnic and cultural diversity The joint programme is funded by the Spanish Government through the MDG Achievement Fund.
Through the joint UN Programme, UNICEF is also working with the Ministry of Education and Science to ensure that school communities are better able to address broader issues related to multiculturalism. UNICEF will also work with schools in Kumanovo, Kicevo and Struga to build capacities of school governance structures - school boards and student and parent councils - to ensure that school governance mechanisms are transparent and based on democratic principles.
The Multi-Kulti Youth Centre will offer programmes and extracurricular activities such as after schools projects; courses in leadership, photography, English language, journalism, theatre, animation, and film and many more activities that are designed to promote tolerance and improve communication among youth in Kumanovo. Similar centres will also be opened in the coming months in Kicevo and Struga.
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